How We Can Help Our Anxious Teens Live Heroic Lives

How We Can Help Our Anxious Teens Live Heroic Lives

Teen taking a risk amongst friends at Odyssey Teen Camp

There seem to be more teenagers than ever before living with a debilitating degree of anxiety. A study by the National Institute of Health recently showed that one in three teenagers will experience an anxiety disorder, and anxiety is now considered the number one mental health problem in the U.S.

I’m sure there’s a long list of things that contribute to teenagers feeling so anxious including not enough sleep, too much time staring at screens, not enough exercise, social media, high expectations to achieve, puberty, genetics, poor diets, and the fact that our world seems pretty scary, but I think the biggest cause of social anxiety is teenagers’ fears of being judged, embarrassed, and ridiculed.

The courage to live bigger

Most of the teenagers who come to camp with a diagnosis of social anxiety are some of my favorite people. They are sweet, sensitive, kind and introspective. Unfortunately, they are also way too concerned with what they imagine other people might think about them. These worries about social approval and all the self-consciousness that comes with it can make them stop doing all the things that they really want to do, including making friends, trying new things, relaxing and being themselves. Their lives become a lot smaller at a time when they should become bigger. How can we help them find the courage to take the kinds of calculated risks that will help them discover more about themselves? How can we help them connect more with others and begin creating the lives they want to create?

 

I know it can feel bleak when anxiety seems to be stopping our teens in their tracks, but I also know that social anxiety can be overcome, and I’ve been watching teenagers do it at camp for a long time. I’ve heard that anxiety is the gap between the present and the future, and at camp, we are able to create a space where teens can relax and live more in the present.

A safe container

When teenagers recognize they are not being judged and that it’s perfectly o.k. to sometimes feel confused, insecure, clueless, and make mistakes without being put down or humiliated, it frees them to show who they really are. When they get that others are there to support them with kindness, friendship, and love, they can let go of many of their defenses, share their gifts, choose freedom over safety, love over fear, and connection over isolation.

I’m sure that convincing socially anxious teens to come to camp for the first time can be quite a challenge. I’ll write my next blog with some ideas about that, but if you want to talk about it, you can join our Facebook Group to support parents of teens with anxiety, or reach out to me directly, maybe I can help.

Thanks,

Adam

Passionately Becoming True to Ourselves at Summer Camp

Passionately Becoming True to Ourselves at Summer Camp

The following post comes from Phoebe, a current camp counselor, that she wrote about attending Odyssey Teen Camp as a teen. Phoebe’s passion for our loving community shines through here in a way that’s different from the typical posts we share on our blog, and we thought it’d be really valuable to re-share with you. Enjoy!

Phoebe’s Take on Odyssey Teen Camp

“Odyssey Teen Camp is fantasy football, but a little less jockey. I don’t know much about sports, but I am vaguely familiar with the concept of fantasy football. I believe that this is what Odyssey Teen Camp is. It’s a collective of just these superhumans coming together to create this amazing and forceful atmosphere. All these people across America, some from lame suburbia to the complexities of New York City and even across the globe all come together, and together we create a team of humans that’s unlike anything you’ll ever experience.

The kind of people that attract Odyssey Teen Camp, if you come from a small town like me, at best, you could find 2 to 3 in your hometown. However at camp together it’s a population of 200 spectacular humans all bringing something different to the table. We are all so different but all have the same goal in mind, and we just produce this amazing flowing energy of creativity, self-authenticity, and unapologetic self-expression. I think that is what makes the environment so special.

You come into camp, no one knows your backstory, social standing in your high school, or even your last name. I think the anonymity that presents itself towards the campers is what allows us to so passionately become true to ourselves, and for a lot of cases for the first time in our lives. It’s the first time we have this place of just complete radical self-acceptance and once we enter the woods and strip ourselves from the outside world, and judgments, and even cell phones this new mindset just enters so naturally. For 11 months of the year, we are all so inclined to harbor these true emotions or ideas but at Odyssey Teen Camp you are released of any hesitations and have so many crazy opportunities to learn, whether it’s a funky new skill or something about yourself.

One of the most gratifying experiences at Odyssey Teen Camp is just taking a step back and looking at the community itself. You can look into the field and see such a broad spectrum of different of people coexisting so freely. The energy and lovingness this space creates are just so satisfying. A lot of times on the subject of leaving camp the word ‘reality’ often shows up in the conversation, as if this little bubble of utopia is just this synchronized dream a couple of hundred teenagers are experiencing at the same time. What we do and experience at Odyssey Teen Camp is completely real and valid. We made this amazing inclusive environment of just pure joy and simpleness just because we decided to, and that is truly spectacular.”

Superhumans come together at camp

Phoebe’s palpable passion is such a fantastic example of the type of young person that makes our teen camp such a special place to be. By gathering a group of like-minded teens together, we really are able to break down the barriers that define us and open ourselves up to something larger.

So, what do you say? Are you ready to come and be a super-human with us? Are you ready to leave behind the person you might be being for someone else, and dig deeper into who you really are? And, better yet, actually get to BE that person free of judgment?

If so, we’d love to see you this summer. We have some Open Houses coming up this Spring where you can come meet teen camp staff and campers.

Or, if you’re already convinced, you can just go ahead and get registered now.

We can’t wait to see you this summer!

Find out about Odyssey Teen Camp

A great place for teens to be exactly who they are in a community that celebrates diversity. 

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Veteran Camper Turned Counselor Reflects on 15yrs at OTC

Veteran Camper Turned Counselor Reflects on 15yrs at OTC

Georgios Tsangaris

Georgios Tsangaris

Adam Simon on “the Georgios effect”

One of the highlights of going to camp for me is getting to work with Georgios Tsangaris. Georgios came to camp when he was 15 for our first summer, and now he’s 31. He has only missed two years of camp during those sixteen years.

Georgios knows our camp culture as well as anyone because he created so much of it. At camp he is what we call a pod leader, (other camps might call it a division head), for the 15 and 16 year old boys. He brings so much heart, patience, humor, honesty, fun, and originality to everything he does. I asked him if he would write something to tell people what OTC is all about. Here’s how he describes our camp.

From the eyes of Georgios Tsangaris

Georgios Tsangaris

Georgios at 15

“At Odyssey Teen Camp we are a temporary intentional community, organized around making teens feel safe and supported as they experiment with new ideas, challenge their own assumptions, and make new friendships.

The staff and programming at Odyssey Teen Camp is eclectic and changes a little every year, but the mission of camp remains the same: OTC creates a space that temporarily ends and challenges the uglier parts of life: judgement, bullying, materialism, and division, to name a few.

Almost all teenagers can thrive in an environment that discourages judgement and encourages sincerity. It’s pretty common for a sporty and popular high schooler to come to OTC and open up like never before, make lots of friends, play a lot, and grow as a person. Lots of teens who feel trapped in playing the game of being cool and popular blossom in a situation where those social expectations and rules are suspended.

But often the teens that get the most out of camp are the kind that don’t quite fit in at school, the teens that are too weird to be popular, the teens whose fashion choices seem bizarre (but will probably be trendy in 10 years), the teens that are already searching for something more fulfilling than just an ordinary life.

There are a lot of unhealthy ways that teenage rebellion and experimentation can be directed – here at camp we focus on channeling that energy in positive directions. We foster a sense of community that honors every kind of camper. At OTC friendships develop between different kinds of teens that would almost never interact in a normal high school social scene.”

Find out about Odyssey Teen Camp

A great place for teens to be exactly who they are in a community that celebrates diversity. 

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Come play with us this summer. Join Georgios, and the hundreds of young people who call Odyssey Teen Camp “home” for part of the summer, register now while space is available.

What parents have to say about Odyssey Teen Camp

What parents have to say about Odyssey Teen Camp

A few years ago, we decided to ask parents what they saw Odyssey Teen Camp doing for their teenagers. This is a wonderful video to watch and truly get the scope of transformation that parents see from the outside. We’re so honored to be a place where teenagers can learn self-reliance, healthy communication, and positive relationships with themselves and others. The video is transcribed below. Thanks for watching!

“This was Kayla’s second year here—she loves it here. Last year when we brought her, she was an entirely different kid from when we dropped her off and when we brought her home. When she left, she wouldn’t talk to me; she was in a really bad place. When we picked her up two weeks later she was transformed and she brought that transformation home, and she loves being here. It’s a great, accepting, wonderful place to be.”

“It’s been the most amazing experience for her. She’s made lifelong friends, and she’s found confidence and self-esteem and gotten to explore things that she never would have otherwise.”

“Mila, our daughter, this is her third year coming to Odyssey [Teen] Camp. She absolutely loves it. It’s a place where she learned self-love, love of others, expression and understanding of all the diversity of humanity. She absolutely looks forward to being here and hanging out with the beautiful friends she’s met here, because it’s just a place where we get to BE. It’s also in a beautiful environment. Every kid should come to Odyssey, it’s fulfilling for the soul, spirit, and being.”

“At this camp, it’s very much in the moment, when you wake up in the morning you’ve got 50 different things you can pick from that day and do it with the friends that you’re making as you’ve been here. It’s reallu about being in the moment and all the things they offer are great.”

“I’m about to pick them up, and last year when I picked them up, the first thing they said to me was: ‘Mama, this was a life-changing experience.'”

“This is the second summer that my children have attended Odyssey Teen Camp. They come form Copenhagen , Denmark, and they absolutely love it.”

“[This is a] world where kids don’t have that opportunity to connect with other kids and open up, to feel free, and to feel like they have a safe harbor to be themselves. This is a really unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I would highly recommend it for anyone—for any kid who wants to be free.”

Midnight Tea: A New Camp Tradition

Midnight Tea: A New Camp Tradition

Young woman camper smiling in our art center with face paint

Every year, we get returning campers who come to Odyssey Teen Camp for their second, third, fourth or fifth year at camp. If you came to camp and loved it, returning might seems like a no-brainer. But what if most of your friends you made in the past aren’t going to be there?

This is Kaya’s story – when she decided to come back for her third year at camp, it was almost like coming to camp for the first time all over again. She talks about a special tradition that put her at ease and helped her open up to a whole new set of people, even though she’d been coming to camp for years. Here is her story, in her own words.

Kaya’s Story

“Last summer at Odyssey Teen Camp was one of the best I’ve ever had, and I’m so glad I decided to come back for a third summer. Earlier in the year I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to come back. Most of my friends from years before had left after the last session, and I was reluctant to leave home for two weeks if I wouldn’t be seeing them.

I had one friend who was staying the whole session, but I didn’t want to monopolize her. As I started thinking about the type of community OTC is, I became a lot more hopeful about the summer. The people at Odyssey– staff and campers alike– are so kind and welcoming. Everyone works so hard to make sure that camp feels like home. As a person who can sometimes be slow to open up, that was extremely helpful and has always made my time at Odyssey so wonderful.

Despite all that, when I got to my pod (housing) on the first day of the session I was incredibly nervous. Again, I worried that I wouldn’t make any new friends or would be too shy to form any close relationships during the session. That first night, a bunch of us stayed up in Olympus’s living room in a tradition we created called Midnight Tea. We drank tea (as the name suggests) , exchanged stories, talked about our lives, and got to know each other. By the time I went to bed that night I felt really connected to everyone in Olympus and I knew that the next two weeks wouldn’t be lonely at all.

A Tradition is Born

Midnight Tea continued to happen almost every night, and soon a group of us started pulling our mattresses out to the living room at night to have sleepovers. Through those nights spent talking, laughing, and eating snacks we formed an extremely close friendship that continues today. Having the security of a core group of friends gave me the confidence to branch out and talk to new people, forming even more great relationships.

By the time camp ended I had so many people I liked hanging out with and trusted, leaving camp felt like leaving home. The beautiful thing about OTC is that it provides a virtually stress-free environment where everyone is encouraged to have fun, try new things and form new relationships, something that is unfortunately rare outside of camp.

Back Home

As the school year progresses and college application season comes to a close, I really miss the freedom I felt at camp. The freedom to try new things, to be myself, and to interact with people I probably wouldn’t have spoken to (or even met) at home. I think every teenager should be able to experience that kind of freedom, and the best place to do that for me is at Odyssey Teen Camp.”

Kaya, thank you for sharing. This warmed our hearts!

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